Two military veterans who faced spending Christmas alone have formed a COVID ‘bubble’ so they can celebrate the day together.
Ian Thomas, 73, and Dougie Shelley, 95, were united by Armed Forces charity SSAFA after it heard they had no family nearby.
Now the pair, who have struck up a friendship over the last five years, will spend Christmas together at Shelley's house in Southend, Essex.
Chel Turner-Everett, divisional secretary of SSAFA Southend, said: "Ian mentioned that he was going to be on his own at Christmas.
"So I spoke to Dougie, who I already knew was also going to be on his own, and I said to them "Why don’t you spend the day together and I’ll organise the lunch for you?"
"So that’s what I’ve done."
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Thomas served as a captain in the Army, while Shelley sailed in the arctic convoys in the Royal Navy in World War 2.
Turner-Everett added: "They feel a lot better. It’s not a day that you really want to be on your own.
"They’ve known each other for about four to five years so they’re becoming friends.
"Ian looks after Dougie during the lockdown. He will go out and do the shopping for him and if he needs anything Ian will make sure Dougie has got it.
"Ian’s family isn’t local. He’s got a daughter in New Zealand, a son in Oxford and another son in Singapore so he hasn’t got much family over here.
"Dougie unfortunately has outlived his family."
Turner-Everett has organised for a Christmas dinner to be delivered to Dougie’s home from Glenwood Café in Westcliff.
She said: "We’re going to make sure they’ve got a drink each for the day so they can celebrate Christmas properly and make sure they’ve got Christmas crackers and everything.
"It seemed to me a very simple solution for two isolated people to put them together.
"We look after our veterans all through their lives. That’s what Christmas is all about, spending it with people you care about."
Travel restrictions will be lifted across the UK for five days between December 23 and 27 to enable people from different households to gather over the holiday.
Up to three households will be able to come together to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ during that period.
Members of a bubble can meet at home, in places of worship and in outdoor public places.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested those in vulnerable categories should wait until they are vaccinated before they get together with family and friends.
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